There’s a certain anxiety when you haven’t blogged in awhile, like your next post better have been worth the wait. I recently switched from Blogger to WordPress and I’m still adjusting to this new relationship, but today I downloaded the WordPress app on my phone, and it’s waaay more lovable than the actual site. So here I am blogging on my phone, deciding to just be casual and conversational and not let the blogger bogeyman get me down. 

It’s Sukkot, and Sukkot is about joy. The Torah actually says “Be happy!” So yesterday we were lunching in our sukkah with friends, discussing to what extent is happiness a choice, and we came up with a few ways unhappy people deal with their unhappiness.

1. Wallow.

On this level, the unhappy person sinks into his unhappiness with self-pity. There’s envy of others, blame, anger. The unhappy person either can’t or won’t see a way out.

2. Distract.

Here the person engages in behaviors to move his attention away from the source of unhappiness.

This can be healthy or unhealthy, depending on the method of distraction and the extent to which it impairs the person from facing the issues. Vacations, outings with friends, food, alcohol, drugs, consumerism, hobbies all fall into this category.

To some degree we all engage in some of these, and to some degree we should. I think people going through a rough time should remember to take care of themselves, buy themselves something nice, get out with friends, even have a glass of wine. But when distraction becomes the main way of life, we have a problem.

3. Count the blessings.

On this level, the unhappy person, perhaps after the appropriate time spent going through whatever grieving process is necessary, recognizes that while sad and bad things happen, they shouldn’t obscure his vision from all the things in his life that are working.

Marriage, kids, job, health – you probably can’t have all of these, but when one or two aren’t working, it’s way too easy to forget about what is. On this level the person draws joy and comfort in the blessings he does have, while acknowledging what’s not working. This is the level I believe most people should aspire to.

4.  Celebrate the pain.

This is a very high and difficult level to attain. It’s like being an elite athlete. Not for everyone but cool to know they exist. On this level we forgive G-d for the pain and acknowledge that pain is the most powerful way to spur us to reach our potential.

Pain, because it also has the power to break you, is like the Mt. Everest of spiritual growth. It might kill you, or you’ll become the greatest achiever. Pain also allows you to become more compassionate, more humble, more kind, softer, more mature. Nothing can do this to you as much as pain. So if the pain itself can be celebrated, and again, this is a process that takes time and constant coaching, a person knows that he can be happy no matter what happens.

Pretty sure this is why Gallup Poll discovered awhile ago that, on average, religious people are happier than non-religious people – they believe that there’s meaning in the pain, which makes it surmountable.